Holbrook’s Pond is back to looking like it’s supposed to and not like an overgrown mud puddle. This wasn’t the case last summer after a small dam gave way threatening the Wiscasset landmark at the junction of Route 1 and Old Bath Road.
The dam’s failure caused in part by its age resulted in a rapid drop in the pond’s water level. Its water source is a brook that is partially spring fed. Along with forming the pond, the dam regulates water as its funneled through a cement conduit that passes under the highway. The brook continues downhill into the woods, spilling into Bradbury Cove behind Castle Tucker.
“People noticed right away something was wrong because the pond was getting smaller every day,” said Wiscasset’s public works director Ted Snowdon. Water had gushed through the conduit so fast it had eroded the sandy banks around it partially exposing the town’s sewer main. In days, the pond’s water level had dropped more than two feet. Things were made worse by a long stretch of hot, dry weather that further shrank the size of the pond.
Snowdon said the town needed permission from the Department of Environmental Protection to take on the project. He said the new dam is made of pressure-treated planking reinforced with steel. “We designed it so that it can be easily repaired or replaced if there’s ever a problem like this again.”
Due to Route 1 traffic, the bulk of the work was carried out on a Sunday. “We started early, around 4 o’clock in the morning,” said Snowdon, who operated town’s front-end loader while town crew members Matt Huber and Earl Babcock helped fabricate the new dam. The project was finished in September but it took until spring for the pond’s water level to return to where it used to be, added Snowdon.
Holbrook’s Pond was formed long before Route 1 was built. In days of yore, a small wooden bridge spanned the brook when travelers in horse-drawn wagons and buggies traveled southward over Old Bath Road. In 1905, an enterprising Wiscasset man named Foster Perkins dammed the brook and established an ice works there. Before refrigeration was invented, ice was sawed by hand into blocks during the winter, stored until summer then used to keep food cold and from spoiling.
Willow Lane’s Steve Christianson, a great grandson of Foster Perkins, said Ellsworth Holbrook bought the ice business in the 1930s and continued selling ice in town until 1948. From then on locals got to calling the small body of water Holbrook’s Pond.
“The ice business closed long before I was born but I’m fairly certain the old ice shed was still standing until the early 1960s. It was a fairly large wooden building on the north side of the pond close to where the dam is now,” he said. For years, Holbrook’s Pond was also a popular place where locals gathered to enjoy an afternoon or evening of ice skating. “I remember my mother taking me there to skate. That’s where all the kids who lived intown would go skating,” recalled Christianson.
Wiscasset’s sign welcoming visitors to “Maine’s Prettiest Village” once sat alongside Holbrook’s Pond. The sign was later moved to the opposite side of the highway.